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Chapter 19 - The Purpose of Relationships
Existence itself establishes a basis for relationship that is defined by birth, marriage and death. In a prosperous consumer society many only tolerate the circumstances created by their birth (family) and as soon as possible and seek to escape restrictive relationships. For these, starting a life for themselves opens the possibility of having only pleasurable and enjoyable relationships..
If one considers a 'purpose' to life, there are two choices. The first is that our existence is the result of the intention of a creator. The second choice is that our existence is a result of random chance so that, with no other purpose, we are then free to do whatever we feel like because we establish our own purpose. This second choice is attractive and most select it because it justifies whatever one wishes do to.
For Christians the purposes of the creator (God) become integral to our existence.If we consider that we were known and work was planned for us from before the world was created, we can begin to see that our relationships exist to facilitate that which our creator has purposed.
even as, in His love, He chose us as His own in Christ before the creation of the world, that we might be holy and without blemish in His presence. - Ephesians 1:4
For we are God's own handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works which He has pre-destined us to practise. - Ephesians 2:10
Out of the self-directed purpose of life comes the consumer perspective which often sees the purpose of relationships with other people as to provide access to resources to be exploited. The Christian perspective sees relationship with others in terms of children to be sought, cherished, nurtured, instructed, and even disciplined, husbands to be respected and obeyed, wives to be loved and cherished, and parents to be honored and obeyed.
Beyond family relationships, the Christian can see others as either fellow Christians with whom relationships can be formed or as those who are not Christian with whom business can be conducted and civility and courtesy be maintained, but with whom no real relationship can or should be formed.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. - Romans 12:18
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. - 1 Corinthians 5:9-10
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? - 2 Corinthians 6:14
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. - James 4:4
For the Christian, deeper relationships beyond those with God and family should be formed with other Christians. We can have a relationship with an older wiser Christian who can teach us how to grow in our faith. We can have a relationship with a less mature Christian that we might be able to instruct. More common than instructional relationships are those in which we can minister to each other.
The imprint of the modern world often leaves us with a distorted emphasis on the material. If we allow this to influence consideration of our Christian relationships, it can limit how we see the needs of others such as seeing ministry opportunities in solely financial terms.
If we consider some biblical admonitions impacting Christian relationships, we can begin to see that there needs to be a network of relationships such that both material and other needs are are known and can be responded to.
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:2
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; - Romans 12:10
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. - Romans 14:13
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. - Galatians 5:13
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; - Ephesians 4:2
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. - Ephesians 4:32
But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. - 1 Thessalonians 4:9
There are some contemporary denominations like Amish , some Mennonite, and Apostolic Lutheran whose members have the large families such as were common prior to the industrial age. In the assembly of these Christians, one can observe the network of relationships (both inter and intra familial) through which the biblical admonitions of 'one another’' can be more easily be followed. This is because broad relational connections have already been established.
Sadly for most modern Christians, even family relationships are so thin as to not be able to support such an investment in each other. We are subsequently not able to extend to our brothers and sisters in Christ the richness and depth of our family relationships because they themselves are so anemic.
Even if our own Christian maturity is sufficient to recognize the value of prayer as a ministry for others, we may not have the depth of relational connection from which to have access to information that could helps us know for whom and what to pray. What is even more sad is that we may have grown so accustom to relational poverty that if something deeper is offered, it can cause us the discomfort of the unfamiliar such that we retreat from those to whom we could minister.
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